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TDs to debate plans to 'name and shame' those who pay for sex

Thomas Pringle has plans to change the current system, which makes it illegal only to solicit prostitution but not to buy it.

Under Irish law it is an offence to try to sell sex - but not to actually buy it.
Under Irish law it is an offence to try to sell sex - but not to actually buy it.
Image: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Updated, 08:56

TDS WILL TODAY consider plans to change Ireland’s laws on prostitution – making it expressly illegal to pay for sex.

Thomas Pringle will table a bill which will criminalise men who pay for sex, and not just sex workers who solicit a paid-for sexual encounter.

Current Irish law criminalises the act of soliciting a paid-for sexual encounter – including both the prostitute and the client – but does not make it specifically illegal for someone to pay money exchange for that encounter.

In a note circulated to TDs, Pringle said the legislation would “reduce the demand for sexual services, thereby reducing the incidence of prostitution in society”.

His legislation would decriminalise the act of looking to sell sex, and instead criminalise the act of paying for it.

It would also clear the way for details of those offences to be publicised in press reports, which he said had been found as an active deterrent to stop people from engaging in buying sex.

The proposals follow the ‘Swedish model’, introduced in 1999, where that country was the first country to prohibit the purchase of sex itself.

Studies in Sweden have found that the ban significantly reduced the numbers of women in prostitution and the numbers on the streets.

“The law in Sweden assumes that prostitution is incompatible with contemporary values and that it is a serious social problem, which can and should be abolished. The purpose of the Bill is to adopt the Swedish model,” Pringle said.

The chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Denise Charlton, said that the bill being tabled by Pringle would “offer us an important opportunity to remind politicians that in the years we have spent debating the issue the pimps and traffickers have continued their trade.”

It is our hope that the debate will be used by politicians from all sides to take a stand and say the organised crime which runs Irish prostitution must be put out of business fast.

The government is likely to reject the legislation, or ask Pringle not to push it to a vote, as it has asked the Oireachtas Justice committee to hold a series of hearings on possible reforms.

A report on those possible changes is due in the coming weeks.

Read: Victims of human trafficking gang rescued from Belfast brothels

More: Immigrant council says pimps profiting from delay in new prostitution law

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Gavan Reilly

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